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Downtown GR businesses make strong comeback civil unrest

Posted at 9:24 AM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 10:01:40-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Dozens of downtown Grand Rapids businesses, large and small, experienced the ramifications of the civil unrest almost immediately.

READ MORE: City: Preliminary riot damage estimated at $448,000

From restaurants, coffee shops and retail stores, the damage cost business owners thousands.

Our Savannah Fish went downtown to reconnect with the same business owners she met a year ago during her live coverage to see how business is doing now.

“We were able to recover pretty quickly. And luckily, we're insured so our insurance company worked with us and our landlord worked with us to get new glass,” said Vault of Midnight co-owner, Curtis Sullivan.

Located next door is the Little Bird restaurant and they were not as fortunate over the last year. They’re temporally closed, and the damage costs are around $20,000.

“It was literally one challenge after another,” said owner Sarah Wepan. “We had already been weathering the pandemic. It was really just another blow. “Upon seeing it, I mean it was just completely devastating,” she said.

Fortunately, the closure is not planned for much longer because Sarah plans to reopen in June.

“The entirety of our restaurant, the whole front of it was gone. The interior had bricks. There were, everything was broken,” she said.

Richard App, retail retention and attraction specialist for the City of Grand Rapids says more than 800 downtown businesses windows were smashed and repaired.

The city was a mess,” App said. “There were windows broken, there was no there was debris everywhere. There were cars burning… the streets were steaming. It was it was a tough look.”

WATCH: Volunteers helping clean up businesses, downtown GR after riots

And as these business owners reflect back on this one year anniversary, they feel encouraged downtown Grand Rapids is making progress, both economically and socially.

“The destruction that happens on the one evening, certainly led to a feeling of a lack of security, but that was quickly overcome by the general well wishes of the protesters themselves,” Wepan said.

Owners say that while business is better, but they still need community support.

They are excited that people can return to work, hoping that foot traffic will lead to the economic boost that they need.